Longing for a reunion

Ahmad is like many other 13-year-olds.

He is bold, boisterous and is optimistic in a way only a young person can be.

But his greatest wish is to break fast with his mother.

For the second year in a row, he is spending Ramadan away from her.

It is only when this subject was raised that we saw a change in the boy.

“I’m quite jealous when I see some of the residents go out and break their fast with their family members,” Ahmad told The New Paper, with notable sadness.

Ahmad (not his real name) has spent more than a year at Pertapis Children’s Home.

According to Mr Sophian Kayat, the head of the home, Ahmad and his older brother were placed in the home’s care in March last year after a court order to protect them.

Their mother had been abused by Ahmad’s stepfather.

She stays in a separate welfare home.

I’m quite jealous when I see some of the residents go out and break their fast with their family members.
— Ahmad

When Ahmad was first admitted to the home, he understood why he was being separated from his mother, but it was still hard.

“Ahmad is close to his mother so when he was first admitted here, he was moody and easily agitated,” said Ahmad’s case manager, Miss Hamidah Otheman, 25.

“It took him three to four months before he was able to deal with his emotions and settle into life in the welfare home,” she added.

Ahmad described last year’s fasting month: “I was very sad because it was the first time that I was fasting away from my mother.

“This year, it’s better because I’m already used to it and I have friends here.”

Ahmad breaking fast with some donors.
BREAKING FAST: Ahmad breaking fast with donors. The donors had sponsored the food that day.

When TNP visited the home in Kovan, Ahmad was having his school holidays.

He and the other children at the home clamoured to play games during their morning break.

During the school holidays, the children are allowed to play from 7.30am to 9am.

He loves to play football. The home has a small field — about a quarter the size of a normal football field.

“I support Chelsea and Fernando Torres is my favourite player,” he shared between kicks towards an old goalpost.

A young resident at the home looking on as Ahmad and his friends play football.
OBSERVING: A young resident at the home looking on as Ahmad and his friends play football.

Even though Ahmad is away from his mother, but he does not complain about the home.

In fact, he credits the home for helping him to get through the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which he took last year.

“The tuition and the support programmes that they have helped to push my grades up and I was able to pass my PSLE,” he said.

Ahmad doing his worksheets which were given to him by the home.
PRACTICE: Ahmad practicing the worksheets which were given to him by the home.

“I want to study hard and get into polytechnic and study aerospace engineering,” said the secondary school student.

“I heard that there are a lot of jobs as an aerospace engineer.”

This is more than personal ambition. He wants to be able to give back to the welfare home.

“Maybe in the future, I can sponsor an event for them or maybe make an activity programme for them,” he said.

Ahmad is close to his mother, so when he was first admitted here, he was moody and was easily agitated.
— Miss Hamidah Otheman, Ahmad's case manager at Pertapis

But for now, all he wants is to be reunited with his mother.

According to Mr Sophian, Ahmad’s wish may be granted in the near future.

He says that the next stage for Ahmad is to spend and extended home leave with his mother.

“So long as safety is not compromised, we should be heading towards reunification.”